The food stamp program could not get away with that, nor could the WIC health and nutrition program for women, infants and children, both of which are facing deep cuts.
That $2.5 billion was money the Army once planned to spend between 2013 and 2017 on its Autonomous Navigation System (ANS). The system, begun in 2003, was “to serve as the autonomous navigation system for as many as 13 unmanned vehicle types as part of the FCS [Future Combat System],” according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.
FCS was the ambitious plan during Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s time when funds were flowing to modernize the Army into a “lighter, more agile and more capable combat force,” the GAO said.
Beginning in 2009, however, with war costs creating a growing deficit, the Army shifted priorities and began canceling FCS vehicles. By last year they all had been ended. Meanwhile, the GAO reported, the Army kept ANS research and development going, planning to use it on a “yet-to-be-developed multi-mission unmanned ground vehicle” that could be used to combat improvised explosive devices [IEDs], which remain the main killers in Afghanistan.
Last year, the Army put together a Red Team to compare “the demonstrated capabilities of ANS and six other military and commercial systems,” the GAO said. ANS by that time could have guided unmanned vehicles to “avoid obstacles and follow a leading vehicle through varying terrain” but had no exceptional unique capability.
While about 90 percent of the ANS hardware had been developed, only 75 percent of the computer software was completed. The most advanced capabilities would have been “costly and time consuming,” the GAO reported.
Ultimately, ANS was canceled, although the GAO pointed out that the Army still was researching unmanned vehicle initiatives.
The Army says it expects to take the roughly $2.5 billion meant for ANS and make it “available for fiscal years 2013 to 2017 for reinvestment by the Army.”
But why isn’t that $2.5 billion just not spent?
The money, starting with fiscal 2013, will be “reprogrammed” to pay for other projects that did not appear to be needed enough to be included in the last budget proposal.
Ironically, the Senate Appropriations Committee in its report Friday on the fiscal 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill took issue with this Pentagon penchant to reprogram money after a fiscal year’s budget is sent to Capitol Hill. The panel said it understood necessary budget changes because of shortfalls or war losses, but it said “fiscal discipline is lacking in the budget request.” It found disconcerting “the number of reprogrammings, dollar amounts, and significant increase of requests to start new programs outside the normal budget cycle,” noting that they “do not receive the same level of oversight, scrutiny.”